The 21st century Church has continued to face unique challenges well after we brought 2020 to a close. Yet, the Body of Christ continues to adapt in the face of a rapidly-changing American landscape.
If we go back to the turn of the century, some churches were debating whether or not they needed a website to convey information in a world that increasingly relied on the internet to get the word out about Sunday service. At that time, a website was ‘cutting edge,’ and seemed to convey that a church was able to serve well beyond the five-mile radius of the church of yesteryear.
Fast forward 20 years to today and the Body of Christ is now expected to be on multiple social media platforms, have a flashy and interactive website, host podcasts, train staff members in effective usage of Zoom, and the list grows from there.
But the technology allows us to reach people for Jesus that we wouldn’t have been able to reach even a few short years ago, especially in the face of a global pandemic, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a century.
In leadership groups, the various pros and cons of the technological changes come up with some regularity. For example, I’ve recently lost much respect for a church elder who helped raise me as I’ve seen her pro Q-Anon and far-rightwing extremist views play out on social media. At the same time, that same social media has also helped me recognize and re-connect with those I haven’t spoken to in years, and learn that we have much more in common than we ever realized.
The pros and cons of technology use for churches are never-ending (how do you handle a church leader’s wildly inappropriate post?) and wide-ranging. But on this most of us will agree: churches must continue to adapt and change as technology changes, so as not be left in the dust.
The pandemic was a harsh reality check for churches that had no interest in anything but in-person services. Rather than a criticism (it’s not), it was simply a reality check in the ability for a church to adapt quickly when needed.
In years ahead, the message of Christ doesn’t have to change — but how we continue to share that message with others will continue to evolve, and that pace is indeed a rapid one.
Christopher Dixon is chief operating officer of eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com) and pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland, Mo. He is also a Word&Way contributing writer and a trustee.